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General Studies 2 >> Social Justice



Source: The Hindu


  • Twenty years ago, at the dawn of the new millennium and after the ‘Mandal decade’ of the 1990s, it looked as though the institution of caste had become legible in a new way. a
  • Those are internal to the caste structure itself and those that are located in the larger context. 
  • The upper caste group has also entered into the game of caste and the benefits associated with it.
  • The internal differentiation has taken place within each large caste grouping.
  • The major factors behind such dynamics were economic status, livelihood sources, regional location and electoral influence. For example,
  • In Uttar Pradesh, ‘Non-Yadav OBCs’ and ‘Yadav OBC’ have emerged as two subgroups within OBCs in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The upper castes have seen division into the non-rich, rich and super-rich classes.

Studying Caste Dynamics via OBC

  • OBCs led to the recognition that the upper castes were only a minority rather than the ‘general’ or universal category.
  • They invited closer attention to the notion of backwardness because they were an intermediate group.
  • OBCs were subjected to creamy layer and non-creamy layer categorization.
  • Therefore, they highlighted the pros and cons of categorisation in the reservation system. 
  • The challenge of internal disparities within large groupings was also highlighted by the OBCs.
  • OBCs have a large population base that is distributed nationwide.
  • Therefore, they played an important role in state politics and coalition politics at the national level.

Internal dynamics

  • The single most important change over the past two decades is that the process of internal differentiation within each large caste grouping has now penetrated much deeper. 
  • The impact of this process depends on the dimension of differentiation and on the contextual features which allow or prevent sub-groups from crystallizing as distinct entities
  • The most common dimensions of differentiation are economic status, livelihood sources, and regional location. 
  • The single most important contextual factor that allows or prevents crystallization as an independent entity appears to be a region-specific electoral influence.
  • For example, the Yadavs of Uttar Pradesh have not only coalesced as a coherent group but have also facilitated the emergence of a derivative sub-group called the ‘non-Yadav OBCs’. 
  • Individual castes within this latter group, however, are yet to acquire a separate electoral identity.
  • Similar region-specific developments may be seen in cases such as the Mahars of Maharashtra or the Malas of Andhra Pradesh among the SC groups. 
  • For example, economic differentiation within the upper castes has produced a division into the non-rich, rich and super-rich segments, but these are not sub-castes, and they are not (yet) a separate political constituency and remain within the larger upper caste fold. 
  • Moreover, caste being fundamentally relational, it is the changing dynamics between and among caste groupings that matter. 
  • Macro-analyses of caste will become more and more difficult; they will end up either as unhelpful (and unsustainable) generalities, or they will simply become a collection of detailed micro-studies.

 The sources which dynamized the caste system

  • The groupings were far too big to remain coherent. This has led to an exponential increase in the complexity of the caste system.
  • Another important factor is neoliberalism. It has reoriented the role of the state and the market in India since 1991.
  • Other factors include the ongoing restructuring of federalism in India; and finally, the change in the ecosystem of official statistics.

For Prelims & Mains

For Prelims: Caste System, Reservation, 
For Mains: What is the caste system and discuss its dynamics (250 Words)

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